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Tired of £10 map packs?

Opinion: Developers need to get competitive online says Tom Pakinkis...

It's that time again, when Activision announces another pricey map pack for King CoD and FPS-heads across the world react with a colourful mixture of disappointment, outrage and acceptance.

1200 Microsoft points for five new maps may not sound too unreasonable when you convert it to a crisp, clean tenner - and at least the new pack doesn't include Modern Warfare rehashes - but considering Black Ops had an RRP of £50, people have every right to get a little tetchy.


£10 for what's essentially a fresh backdrop and a few new places to hide does take the biscuit, but there's a very clear and logical reason behind Activision's pricing. As far as Call of Duty is concerned, it's a case of if you build it they will come and if you slap a hefty price tag on it they'll buy it anyway.

Activision has an iron grip on the multiplayer world thanks to its formula of fast-paced, high-end shooting and an addictive reward-based loop of life, death and resurrection.

Kudos to Activision, Treyarch and Infinity Ward for hitting the henchman on the head then, but by the time we reach map pack three or four we could end up having paid almost £100 for a video game that didn't breach the 90s. In fact, forget scores, we could end up having paid £100 for a video game.

It doesn't have to be like this. You only need to look to the glistening tarmac of Paradise City and EA's and Criterion's generosity in the online market to see the Activision business plan isn't the only way.

Criterion put out packs of Police cars, motorbikes, modes - all of them free and all of them bringing more dimensions to gameplay than a few measly maps. When Criterion finally did hold out its hand for a few pennies it gave us a whole new island to skid around on in return.

Valve, for example, has updated Team Fortress 2 with more than a sequels worth of content without even a sniff of the green and has built up a passionate and loyal following as a result. Epic has been similarly giving with Unreal Tournament in the past.

The problem then, isn't that online multiplayer is only sustainable at a price of a penny per pixel; it's that too many people have their bloodshot eyes fixed on one kind of multiplayer experience with one kind of business plan. And I'm not necessarily pointing the finger at the hardcore either, you lot show your disdain often enough. But CoD has slipped into houses everywhere; if things are going to change we need awareness on a global scale.

Earlier this month EA Games president Frank Gibeau proclaimed that single-player only games were dead, that from now on every game would have to have online connectivity in some form.

At the time such a notion was a bit unnerving since I, like a lot of you, was a bit precious about EA franchises that had managed to come at single-player life with a refreshingly new slant. Surely the likes of Mass Effect and Mirror's Edge would lose something of their character if too much time was spent shoe-horning in some generic, multiplayer mish-mash.

But who says it has to be shoe-horned, who says it has to be generic and who had the gall to label the prospect of Mirror's Edge multiplayer a mish-mash? Shame on you.

See, a few weeks ago I became part of a sect, a cult almost, a Brotherhood, and it completely changed my point of view. Just like Criterion proved that DLC can be free, fun and financially feasible, with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Ubisoft has demonstrated that online multiplayer doesn't have to be a complete CoD carbon copy to succeed and it can absolutely complement rather cripple its single-player counterpart.

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